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How to prepare your documents for technical translation

Technical translation is different to other types of translation and preparing your documents is essential if you want to reduce turnaround times and translation costs.


Technical translation is different to other types of translation and preparing your documents is essential if you want to reduce turnaround times and translation costs.

Every single document, whether it is an instruction manual, technical documentation, operation manual, website translation or other, has to be dealt with on two separate levels - language and layout.

Language, content and consistency

You may not think of it this way, but translation starts with your technical writers, in the source language. Our translators have to take that text and create a new, translated version. The easier the source text is to work with, the better the translated outcome. If you are still not certain or you are the technical writer and feel slightly offended right now, please consider these two sentences below:
  • To display CVS on EVD device connect the DE15 connector with the respective female socket in the computer.
  • Plug the monitor’s cable with a blue connector at the end into the blue socket located at the rear of your computer (see figure 4).
The first sentence comes from an engineer who was asked to describe the process of connecting a monitor with a computer. The second one is the same message but translated by a technical writer creating user manuals. Good work isn’t it? If we consider this sentence only, it is. But technical documentation usually contains more sentences. Imagine if the same technical writer used different words for a “monitor” throughout the whole document. The word can be a “screen” or a “display”. Soon we have three words describing one thing and it becomes confusing for the end-user. This means, that in translation you will pay for three words instead of one. If you multiply this issue across many words, the translation becomes significantly more expensive. how-to-prepare-technical-documents-for-translation

Why all this matters

In certain situations when you need to get your documents translated quickly, translation companies will split the document into smaller pieces to be translated by, for example, three translators. Each of these translators has an individual understanding of the terms, each one of them will translate this words differently. One would translate the word as “monitor” consistently, other would probably use “screen” or “display”. Which means that each part of your technical document will be different. That’s why translation companies hire proof-readers to check translations. Their job is to now only check the quality of the work but to make terminology consistent and relevant. This proof-readers will pick one of the translators’ approaches and use it in the whole document. This may incur additional proofreading charges. But you can easily avoid these situations. Whatever your writers create, they must use consistent vocabulary and terminology throughout the all documents. It makes their message clearer, translation cheaper and better quality. For highly technical documentation there’s a standard for the English language (but you can apply these rules to any source language) describing exactly how language layer of technical documentation should be created. This is called Simplified Technical English - STE. What's your biggest challenge when it comes to technical documentation?

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